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Letters / Democracy on the slide

As a signatory on the recent petition sent to council requesting them to play a part in improving Shetland’s testing capability for Covid-19, I found their apparent lack of interest rather shocking.

Having had sight of a letter from the council’s chief executive Maggie Sandison, outlining the advice she gave to councillors on this matter, I can only conclude that her advice was misleading and certainly not balanced. Her recommendation that it should be simply noted and passed to the HNS, was accepted by councilors apparently without debate.

Coronavirus is undoubtedly the single greatest threat facing our economy, our children’s education, our care homes and just about every other aspect of our lives. Yet our councillors didn’t think they had any responsibility, no voice not even a strongly worded note of concern to the NHS.

I also note that our NHS chief said testing was actually a Scottish Government responsibility, so I guess it’s back to the politicians and all on Beatrice’s shoulders.

Never fear, apparently the Scottish Government is going to facilitate mobile labs which can pounce on any outbreak.

As the flu season approaches we will have to hope that one of these mobile labs will be waiting on our call should we need it and no winter storms delay its arrival.

In the letter from the council’s chief executive, she states “the Scottish Government are developing and testing mobile units which can be deployed anywhere in Scotland to provide test results in 20-35 minutes”.

I guess she means after we have established that we have an outbreak which warrants the lab being shipped north, assuming it is available and allowing time for shipping.

She goes on to say “you may be seeking a development for Shetland that does not measure up to the service that can be provided through these mobile facilities”.

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We did not specify any particular solution, indeed purchasing one of the Scot Government’s mobile units may well have been the best solution, problem solved!

She further states “I therefore have a concern that any private development that is not linked to the Scottish Government and NHS Strategy could become outdated or obsolete”.

As above use the same unit, problem solved.

And in a further attempt to undermine the proposal, she says “the greatest risk of failure in any development to improve testing is that it is not fully integrated with the NHS systems and processes”.

I couldn’t agree more. But does she really expect us to believe that a lab funded by the council & private sector sitting outside the Gilbert Bain whether operated by NHS staff or privately would not communicate with NHS staff in the GB or lose data between the two? I struggle to see any greater risk than that posed by a mobile unit from the mainland.

She then concludes by saying “It is not the practice of the Council to develop a business case for a business or a third party.”

Our petition does not ask for a private or third party solution. It does say that both private and public sectors should work together to develop a business model to find the best solution. Funding for whatever solution may come from both sectors.

I guess when it comes to public expenditure, Mrs Sandison does not really understand the concept of a ‘business plan’. The proposal for a testing service could have made money for Shetland as well as protecting the local population. With such a lack of vision it is difficult to have confidence that these same people are going to lead an economic recovery?

I truly hope I am wrong and the measures planned prove to be adequate. But for me, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not taking control and ensuring our security.

What I find equally disappointing is that our councillors allowed themselves to be so browbeaten by Shetland’s answer to Dominic Cumming, that they did not think the proposal worthy of proper debate.

Democracy on the slide!

Dennis Leask

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